Perspective | Carolyn Hax: What’s The Point Of Regret When The Past Can’t Change?

Placeholder while article actions load

Dear Carolyn: What is the utility of regret? It keeps you anchored in the past, which you cannot change.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Oh I think it’s very useful — if we use it. It can be good to feel bad. Regret often has information we might not have been willing to consider if we didn’t feel bad enough to consider it.

It’s like any negative emotion that way — anger, jealousy, grief. It doesn’t appear out of nowhere. It comes from something we did or witnessed or lost that caused pain, and it’s important to think carefully about what it’s trying to tell us so we can respond constructively.

Dwelling on our regret anchors us in the past, yes — but weighed judiciously, it’s one of the best teachers we’ve got.

Dear Carolyn: How do you tell someone you don’t like them? Every morning, my husband walks our dog with a neighbor, John. John and my husband are retired engineers and really enjoy talking “engineer” during their walks. This is great for both of them! However, I do not like John — he is very nosy, full of (unwanted) advice, and “handsy” — he almost always manages to touch my butt when we meet. He knows I don’t like him and has asked me why. I said, once, that I’m just introverted, and he said, “Don’t be silly!” with reasons why being introverted is “silly.”

I’m actively avoiding him now. But the next time he asks, should I tell him exactly why I don’t like him? I’m pretty sure I’ll get a lecture on why I’m wrong.

— Actively Avoiding

Actively Avoiding: Tell him you don’t like that he won’t keep his hands to himself. And if he decides to explain why that isn’t a problem, then you can tell him you don’t like that, either: his asking questions but then not listening to or respecting the answers. Then you can wish them a pleasant walk and leave.

If your husband doesn’t know all this already, then fill him in — not so he’ll challenge John to a duel for your honor or anything, but as a basic marital courtesy before you publicly set John-O straight.

Re: John: “Hey babe. I know you like your walks with John, and you know I don’t like him. I can deal with that, BUT: The next time he touches my butt, he will pull back a stump. Just wanted to give you a heads-up.”

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Works figuratively for me.

Re: Unlikable John: Does your husband know his walking buddy has been making you uncomfortable with inappropriate touching? I’d want to know if my friend was upsetting my spouse like that because then they’d be an ex-friend.

— Anonymous 2

Anonymous 2: Hmm. I agree in principle, but in practice this could be a reason not to tell the husband. The letter-writer may want him to have his daily outlet for pent-up engineer-speak — may see it as precious, even — for the general domestic benefit of all involved. In that case, deciding to be quiet and just be scarce when John’s around would demonstrate a certain spousal savvy.

Similar Posts